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Large public crowds concern for City, health leaders: distancing must continue

For immediate release: May 1, 2020 - 10:52am
FI20-1225

With the economy slowly re-opening, City, health and community leaders are concerned too many people are gathering in public places – actions that risk spreading COVID-19 in our community.

“We have seen too many people not following the Public Health Orders and beginning to gather in groups in parks and open spaces. This risks us losing the progress we have made in saving lives and keeping the community safe,” says Mayor Charlie Clark.

“Even though the weather is warm and the first phase of re-opening is ahead, the risk of outbreaks remains very real.”

Mayor Clark says Saskatoon and Saskatchewan have collectively shown tremendous leadership in containing the spread of COVID-19.  

“Our continued success hinges on everyone working together. We must all be smart and safe about physical distancing measures.”

A community health expert suggests everyone must keep the Public Health Orders top of mind.

“As the plan to re-open our province and our city unfolds, we need to maintain the changes we have made to how we work, play, live and learn,” says Dr. Jasmine Hasselback Medical Health Officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “We are just starting to enter the next round of this fight against COVID-19, which means we need to be more vigilant than ever.”

Dr. Hasselback reminds everyone must continue routinely washing their hands for 20 seconds, not touch the nose, mouth or eyes; avoid interactions with those outside their own households, stay home when ill and call HealthLine 811 or their doctor as appropriate.

“It also means that even though the weather is nicer and you may want to be outside, we still have to maintain physical distancing – stay two meters away from anyone who is not a member of your own household or your virtual household to keep yourself and others safe.”

As Director of Saskatoon Emergency Measures Organization, Pamela Goulden-McLeod has been helping guide the City’s COVID-19 response since January.  She warns too many people are quickly placing their family and neighbours’ health in jeopardy.

“If we begin to let down our guard thinking everything is back to normal we could erase all the good work we’ve done as a community,” she says.

“We cannot gather in large numbers and we have to spread out. This is the very best way to stop infections. It will protect our front-line health and essential service providers – the people who keep our community running.”

Starting next week, to help everyone enjoy the more than 200 parks in Saskatoon, Recreation Staff will be redeployed as Physical Distancing Ambassadors to eight areas of the city.  They will make sure signage and barriers are in place at approximately 250 playgrounds, and replace supplies as needed. Each week, every playground and adjacent park area will get checked.

While out in the parks and sports fields, the Ambassadors will also be promoting and providing public education on the importance of physical distancing while using Saskatoon’s outdoor public places, and to remind everyone that organized sports or games with groups of people are still not permitted.

Meewasin, which oversees the river valley including some of Saskatoon’s most popular trail and natural areas inside and outside the city also stresses the importance of physical distancing.

“We are so happy that the community has the opportunity to use our rural and urban sites for hiking and accessing the river but it is imperative that everyone adheres to restrictions on group sizes and only attends with members of their household. Safety is the top priority,” explains CEO Andrea Lafond.

“Meewasin’s goal is to work with community and government to continue to flatten the curve for COVID-19 and do everything we can to support healthy use of outdoor spaces.”

While public safety is at the forefront for the Saskatoon Police Service, it has a community reminder.

“Our officers are responsible for ensuring members of the public are adhering to the restrictions outlined in the Public Health Orders,” says Supt. Randy Huisman.  “With the arrival of warmer weather we are responding to increasing reports of violations and paying special attention to gathering sizes and social distancing.  Failing to meet the public health guidelines can result in sizable fines.”

Please visit saskatoon.ca/covid19 for timely updates from the City of Saskatoon on everything you need to know to stay safe. For more on the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan please click here.